Ireland’s financial sector, a source of considerable growth and prosperity for a number of years, has long been an attractive area for young graduates and those looking to upskill through a postgraduate qualification, as reflected by the wide range of courses on offer in the area.
However, the effects of the global financial downturn have made themselves felt on the sector. ‘Business for the industry in general was booming from the year 2000 on,’ states an Assistant Vice President with the influential Citigroup. ‘But obviously the recent drop in the market has affected fund performance meaning business has fallen off. This has led to recruitment freezes by some employers and a number of redundancies, although the Irish industry has not been affected too badly yet.’
One of the upshots of the current financial turmoil is that the benefits of gaining a postgraduate qualification in finance have been amplified. ‘2009 is likely to be better and I’d hope to see some improvements in the prospects for graduates although things will be tight enough in comparison to previous years. Gaining that extra qualification would definitely be an advantage,’ according to the Citigroup AVP.
This is a view also taken by Dr. Fergal O'Brien of University of Limerick’s Department of Accounting & Finance: ‘Many would argue that now is exactly the time that one should undertake a postgraduate course in finance so as to be strongly positioned for the upturn, whenever that may come. We’re witnessing a surge in interest from students who view the downturn as another reason to undertake a postgraduate qualification in addition to people recently made redundant in the financial services sector who have decided to skill up.’
Dr. O’Brien is the course director for UL’s MSc in Financial Services, a one-year full-time programme of study designed to equip students with the balance of academic knowledge and technical skills that are required for more high value-added positions available in the financial services industry in Ireland and abroad. ‘Furthermore, the MSc in Financial Services has an exchange agreement with Tongji University in Shanghai which sees 2 graduates per year studying and working in China. This is an exceptional opportunity for our students to gain experience of the global financial services industry,’ continues Dr. O’Brien.
In addition to UL’s programmes, which also include an MSc in Computational Finance, there are several innovative opportunities for students interested in pursuing further study in finance in Ireland. From its exciting location in Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) the National College of Ireland’s MA in Finance allows students to gain a masters qualification while simultaneously preparing for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) examinations. This course is open to graduates from finance related areas who achieved 2nd class honours and have worked in the field for two years or more.
UCD’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School, which in December 2008 was ranked 24th in the Financial Times European Business School rankings, offers an MBS in Finance over one or two years aimed at those with a business or business-related background.
Also offered on a part or full-time basis is Trinity’s MSc Finance. This course is open to graduates who have achieved upper second class honours or better at undergraduate level in business related areas. Similar entry requirements are sought for entrance to UCC’s various finance related courses which include the MBS Corporate Finance and Accounting; MBS Management Information and Managerial Accounting Systems; MSc Finance; and the MSc Accounting.
students who do not have a background in cognate fields of study or a higher second class honours degree. Amongst these are UCC’s Higher Diploma in Accounting and Corporate Finance, which accepts graduates from any discipline who have achieved a lower second class honours or have equivalent educational or professional qualifications.
Postgraduate studies can unlock the door to a diverse range of prospective jobs. From fund management to investment and corporate banking, financial trading to consultancy roles, graduates have an abundant choice in career path. Further academic research in finance is also an option for those not immediately interested in moving into the private sector although private wages, which increased by 5.7% up to Q2 2008, continue to be a strong pull factor.
‘The downturn in the economy has had an effect on positions in accounting and finance,’ states Brian Fowler, Managing Director of Accountancy Solutions, a financial recruitment specialists based in Dublin. ‘Many sectors are not set to increase employment levels in the shorter term and this will have an effect on the number of positions available for graduates in 2009. However, the larger firms are currently doing ‘milk round’ interviews and we have been advised that they will all be recruiting reasonable numbers of graduates going forward.’
The continuation of the milk rounds demonstrates a quiet optimism amongst employers in the sector as companies position themselves to be prepared for the predicted upturn. As the government continues to invest in human capital and offer attractive tax incentives to foreign and domestic companies, employers such as Permanent TSB, one of the largest players in retail banking in Ireland, have offered employees career breaks worth up to €35,000 over three years so as to weather the current storm without loosing valuable staff.
‘The benefit to a candidate who additionally completes a Masters degree is that they will bring a greater knowledge base to their first position’ Mr. Fowler concludes. ‘Or if they are continuing on to study for professional accountancy exams they will receive a far higher level of exemptions, thus allowing them to qualify in a shorter time.’